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Survey Identifies Top Outdoor Living Trends for 2013

American homeowners increasingly are drawn to adding outdoor rooms for entertaining and recreation on their properties, according to the 2013 Residential Landscape Architecture Trends survey conducted by the American Society of Landscape Architects. The results also show demand for both sustainable and low-maintenance design.

Outdoor Living

2012 ASLA Professional Award winner, Maple Hill Residence. Stephen
Simpson Associates, lead landscape architect.  Photo: Charles Mayer
Photography and Rosemary Fletcher Photography.

Landscape architects who specialize in residential design across the country were asked to rate the expected popularity of a variety of residential outdoor design elements in 2013. The category of outdoor living spaces, defined as kitchens and entertainment spaces, received a 94.5 percent rating as somewhat or very popular. It all but tied with gardens and landscaped spaces at 94.4 percent.

Across all categories, 97 percent of respondents rated fire pits and fireplaces as somewhat or very in demand for 2013, followed by grills (96.3 percent), seating and dining areas (96.3 percent), and lighting (95.1 percent).

“In this uncertain economy, homeowners want to get more enjoyment out of their yards,” said ASLA Executive Vice President and CEO Nancy Somerville, Hon. ASLA. “They want attractive outdoor spaces that are both easy to take care of and sustainable.”

Decorative water elements—including waterfalls, ornamental pools, and splash pools—were predicted to be in demand for home landscapes (90.9 percent). Spas (81.5 percent) and pools (75.3 percent) are also expected to be popular.

Terraces, patios, and decks are high on people’s lists (97.6 percent), as are fencing (89.6 percent) and ornamental water features (84.2 percent).

Americans still prefer such practical yet striking design elements for their gardens as low-maintenance landscapes (93.9 percent) and native plants (86.6 percent), with organic slightly increasing in popularity (65.3 percent compared to 61.2 percent in 2011). In keeping with the local food movement, more people are opting for food and vegetable gardens, including orchards and vineyards (82.7 percent).

Besides planting locally and organically, other sustainable elements continue their popularity with homeowners. Native or drought-tolerant plants (83 percent), drip irrigation (82.5 percent), permeable paving (72.8 percent), and reduced lawns (72.6 percent) are making their way into outdoor living spaces across the country.

Additional information on residential landscape architecture can be found at

Outdoor Design Elements (Overall rating for 2013)

Percent Rating Popular or Somewhat Popular:

Outdoor living spaces (kitchens, entertainment spaces) – 94.5%
Gardens/landscaped spaces – 94.4%
Outdoor recreation amenities (pools, spas, tennis courts) – 76.3%
Sustainable design practices – 74.8%
Vegetable/fruit gardens – 76.4%
Turf lawns – 52.2%

Outdoor Living Features (Overall rating for 2013)

Percent Rating Popular or Somewhat Popular:

Fire pits/fireplaces – 97.0%
Grills – 96.3%
Seating/dining areas – 96.3%
Lighting – 95.1%
Installed seating (benches, seat walls, ledges, steps, boulders) – 90.3%
Weatherized outdoor furniture – 82.3%
Counter space – 74.4%
Utility storage – 64.4%
Stereo systems – 58.5%
Outdoor heaters – 50.6%
Sinks – 49.1%
Refrigerators – 48.7%
Wireless/Internet connectivity – 47.8%
Televisions/projection screens – 45.2%
Showers/baths – 43.3%
Outdoor cooling systems (including fans) – 31.1%
Hammocks – 24.1%
Bedrooms/sleeping spaces – 8.0%

Outdoor Recreation Amenities (Overall rating for 2013)

Percent Rating Popular or Somewhat Popular:

Decorative water elements such as ornamental pools, splash pools, waterfalls, grottos, water runnels, or bubblers – 90.9%
Spa features (hot tub, Jacuzzi, whirlpool, indoor/outdoor sauna) – 81.5%
Swimming pools – 75.3%
Sports/recreational spaces (tennis courts, bocce ball, etc.) – 54.3%
Movie/video/TV theaters – 34.4%

Landscape/Garden Elements (Overall rating for 2013)

Percent Rating Popular or Somewhat Popular:

Low-maintenance landscapes – 93.9%
Native plants – 86.6%
Fountains/ornamental water features – 84.7%
Food/Vegetable gardens (including orchards/vineyards, etc.) – 82.7%
Organic gardens – 65.3%
Xeriscaping or dry gardens – 63.8%
Ponds/streams – 58.3%
Rain gardens – 58.2%
Rooftop gardens – 50.4%
Plant walls/vertical gardens – 47.9%

Sustainable Design Elements (Overall rating for 2013)

Percent Rating Popular or Somewhat Popular:

Native/adapted drought-tolerant plants – 83.0%
Drip/water-efficient irrigation – 82.5%
Permeable paving – 72.8%
Reduced lawn – 72.6%
Recycled materials – 62.5%
Rainwater/graywater harvesting – 59.1%
Compost bins – 55.1%
Solar-powered lights – 40.6%
Geothermal-heated pools – 28.4%

Outdoor Structures (Overall rating for 2013)

Percent Rating Popular or Somewhat Popular:

Terraces/patios/decks – 97.6%
Fencing (includes gates) – 89.6%
Ornamental water features such as fountains or splash pools – 84.2%
Arbors – 83.5%
Pergolas – 81.6%
Decks – 80.9%
Steps – 80.6%
Porches – 71.5%
Kitchens/ovens – 67.1%
Utility sheds (tool sheds, garden sheds, etc.) – 64.8%
Art (sculptures, murals, etc.) – 61.0%
Play structures (tree houses, swing sets, etc.) – 56.3%
Awnings, including retractable – 51.9%
Pavilions – 47.8%
Gazebos – 44.8%
Columns – 44.5%
ADA-accessible structures (ramps, bars, accessible shelving, etc.) – 22.1%

About the Survey
The survey asked residential landscape architecture professionals about the estimated popularity of various design elements for 2013. The survey was fielded January 28 through February 12, 2013, with 166 responding.

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